Sunday, 25 July 2010
South West Coast Path Slog Blog Pt 3
Heading down the M5, the wipers were already on when test match special broke off for the shipping forecast,
"Lundy: force 6 gusting Force 9" was the message, and heading north for the coast it was easy to see why the squat trees trailed their branches to the prevailing wind.
It was the summer before last when I'd made it to the Hunters' Inn at Heddon Mouth, an impressive steep sided stream valley leading down to the sea. I had arrived at 3pm, fortified myself with beer and scratchings before retracing my steps to arrive back at my car by 1oish and eventually home by 1.30 am. Although I had 48 hours to play with the free time had come at a price: in the spirit of family compromise I had pulled out of the Snowdon mountain race the following weekend. There weren't too many regrets - the Snowdon's a great race, but just a bit crowded for my taste.
Faced with torrential rain, high winds and the prospect of a wild night in a coffin-shaped tent that cost 25 quid, I did what any self-respecting backpacker would have done. I fortified myself with beer and scratchings and enquired after a room for the night.
The next day's ramble was long and memorable on a clear, windy and sunny day interspersed with short heavy showers. I covered 22 miles, passed through the settlements of Coombe Martin, Ilfracombe and (the very charming) Lee before making it to Morte Point, the easternmost bit of this part of the coast.
I wild camped on the peninsular in a sheltered spot with a view from the door of the tent across Rockham Bay to the Bull Point lighthouse (three flashes every ten seconds). The crap tent held up well during the night as the heavy showers continued.
I went for a run the next morning out to the tip of the land and was impressed by the force of the ebbing tide as it passed the point. The onshore wind and waves gave rise to some turbulent waters.
The walk back again was steady and a delight as the sun lowered to the horizon. I will remember a combination of images of yellow gorse flowers contrasting with purple flowering heather, brown grass seed heads - illuminated by the sunlight - dancing and waving together in the gusts above the crumpled silver foil surface of the sea. Surprising a female perigrine on the cliffs above Elwill Bay and hearing her wingtips clap as she flew before turning and coming back past me on the wind to join her mate maybe a quarter of a mile behind.
Before I turned inland for the last time, I sat a long while below Peter's Rock and looked across to the Gower, over to Lundy and back along the series of headlands where I had walked, each set one over another, fading in tone into the distance.